Feminist Incognito: The American Working Woman

1224 words - 5 pages

“…By fifteen most girls were introduced to society. At eighteen, they married; by their mid-twenties to thirties they retired from childbearing.” My grandmother, on the other hand, took a train ride at twenty-six and a year after became an independent woman of business supported by her three years in primary school. The trajectory of her life was not an aberration altogether. In fact, it has been pointed out that, “Mexicans were transient laborers first pulled into this country though the railway lines” (Downs et al, pg. 17). And that’s exactly how and why she got to the Juarez-El Paso border region in the sixties. Yet, she stands out from most of the sixties population in urban society in that she was a woman, a widow, an immigrant and the sole source of income for her five children under the age of eight. Her life can be seen through a lens of the course of marriage, immigration and work—all precursors in chasing after ideals of a 20th century feminist woman in a not-so feminist environment.
“After the privations of Depressions and disruptions of war, many people craved the emotional reassurance of early marriage and stable family life” (McArthur et al, pg. 139). The Depression was a time period which affected Americans and Mexicans alike. My grandmother remembers a time when, “jobs were scare,” and the population of 400 of rural El Remolino, Juchipila (her hometown) faced grim results in the agriculture industry.
In line with rural tradition and the oncoming trend of marrying at a younger age, she married at the age of eighteen. At first, her life consisted of caring for her family, household chores and occasionally administering and working at her family’s business, a local convenience store (still in business today). Things changed, however, when her husband passed away due to a brain tumor.
After her husband’s demise, she lost her principal role as a woman, that of being, “the perfect wife and mother, supported by her husband” (McArthur et al, pg. 139). She was left with very little choices, living in an antifeminist sector, with which to keep on living. In an ideal setting she would have three choices by level of increasing effectiveness: live by the support of her parents and the economy of her rural hometown, remarry and reestablish a home for her children or immigrate to the U.S. and work in agriculture like her siblings. This is when her first encounter with feminism began.
“Women in small towns had limited options for making a living” (McArthur et al, pg. 3). This automatically discarded her first option of remaining in her hometown. The financial downfall of the sixties affected rural areas throughout Mexico. Tourism and the value of Mexican agricultural work in their native lands declined.
Now here’s where feminism played a role in her life the most. After her husband’s death, she was given a small pension, provided by the teacher’s association. This pension, however, would not last her a lifetime. Remarrying could have,...

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